As you've probably know, recently Steve Jobs has passed away. A Decade before his death, Job's have sets his vision of what the company would be that sets innovation at the company that have bring you Ipod's, Ipad's, Imac's and a whole series of successful apple products. The company was failing to it's lowest point when Steve Jobs was re-instated as a CEO. the weight of the world is in his shoulders to put the company back on it's track, and Jobs had to do more than introduce flashy products. He had to define Apple's future. And he did so over the years, fighting off skeptics, refocusing the company, and most importantly, giving Apple a long-term vision.
On Responding To Critics
Steve Jobs's return was never a cakewalk–many were skeptical that Jobs would be able to rebuild Apple. After all, NeXT, the ultra-high end computer company he started while away, failed to crack the mainstream market (though Apple ended up acquiring the startup for $400 million). In this rare Q&A session at 1997's Worldwide Developers Conferences (WWDC), an audience member takes Jobs to task, angrily questioning his technical understanding and telling Jobs that he doesn't know "what he's talking about."
Jobs responds calmly to the question, even going so far as to say, "People like this gentleman are right." He apologizes for his mistakes in the past, acknowledges there will likely be more mistakes in the future, and admits he does not have all the answers. However, he says, "We've tried to come up with a strategy and vision for Apple–it started with: 'What incredible benefits can we give the customer?' [And did] not start with: 'Let's sit down with the engineers, and figure out what awesome technology we have and then figure out how to market that.'"
Jobs goes on to cite the reaction consumers had when first seeing the laser printer. "People went, 'Wow, yes!'" Jobs said. "That's where Apple has to get back to."
Focusing On Saying No
Apple in the 1990s had a lot more products than the Apple of the aughts. QuickTake digital cameras, LaserWriter printers, Newton PDAs–all of these product lines were discontinued when Jobs came back. And Jobs's thinking can be found at WWDC 1997, when he explained how Apple had lost its way.
"Apple suffered for several years from lousy engineering management," he said. "There were people that were going off in 18 different directions…What happened was that you looked at the farm that's been created with all these different animals going in all different directions, and it doesn't add up–the total is less than the sum of the parts. We had to decide: What are the fundamental directions we are going in? What makes sense and what doesn't? And there were a bunch of things that didn't."
"Focusing is saying yes, right? No. Focusing is about saying no. You've got to say, no, no, no," Jobs continued. "The result of that focus is going to be some really great products where the total is much greater than the sum of the parts."
The Big Picture: Vertical Integration = Customer Experience
"I remember two-and-a-half years ago when I got back to Apple, there were people throwing spears, saying, 'Apple is the last vertically integrated PC manufacturer. It should be broken up into a hardware company, a software company, what have you,'" Jobs said in 2000 at MacWorld. "And it's true, Apple is the last company in our industry [that's vertically integrated]. What that also means if managed properly is that it's the last company that can take responsibility for customer experience–there's nobody left."
That strategy–to keep Apple a hardware-software integrated company–has allowed Apple to thrive in recent years. It was the opposite approach as the one taken by Microsoft, which licensed its OS, Windows, to device makers. And even with critics arguing that Apple should follow suit, Jobs resisted–in fact, Apple pre-Jobs-comeback had tried (and failed) to license its operating system to OEMs such as Gateway. Jobs devotion to hardware-software interplay led to breakthroughs with the Mac/OS X and iPhone/iPad/iOS.
"There's no other company left in this industry that can bring innovation to the marketplace like Apple can. It means that we don't have to get 10 companies in a room to agree on everything to innovate–we can decide ourselves to place our bets," Jobs said at the time. "We're going to integrate these things together in ways that no else in this industry can to provide a seamless user experience where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We're the last guys left in this industry than can do it. And that's what we're about."
In the decade that lay ahead, traces of Apple's products and innovations can be traced back to this talk, and speeches Jobs had delivered in the years prior–to what Jobs had envisioned for the company all the way back in 1997.
And in true Jobsian style, he concluded his 2001 MacWorld address with what is now justified hyperbole.
"We think this is going to be huge," Jobs said.
And he was right.